Second Spring: An Excerpt
Afar, afar it looked like a turtle,
the beavering tug on the horizon,
which behind pulled a wreck, in pieces split,
while on decks of the following liner,
in crowds of two and three, after dinner,
there watched, in bored poses of wealthy folk,
who, their costly shipfare bought, appalled are,
though not long surprised, with quality of
their cabin-mates' conversation. And yet,
a duo, in slick rubber wrapped, and scarfed,
though fair the night was, without sleet or rain,
attentive crowd the bowsprit, whispering,
to each aside, feedback on the sighting near.
"A whale she is," imparts the first, "that boat
bulldozing the blue water, slow going.
And what she tow-lines, like a comrade’s corpse,
Is it that ghost-ship we are looking for?"
From hip-pocket he, the second, produced,
and to his eye sly put, a telescope,
and this furtive glassed the rolling prospect.
"Aye," said he, in timely observation,
his voice gravel gruff, like foremen who shout,
in the woods, over machine noise and saws,
"By her markings blazed I see, though sundered,
like block-letters broken on that bent hull.
'Twas she who departed fast, Thursday last,
in earnest from Terminal City slips,
with us, from vacations north, arriving
but too late, tickets only procuring
on this gilded freighter, of blowhards full
(and us regarded as contest winners,
imposters, or discount grief-pass holders
--of which, in parts, each three we are, slightly).
And now, from this hip-hugging bag of tricks,
a pliant sack, faithful source, in the bush,
of aid, sustenance, and warming pellets,
I pull, like the mafioso hitman,
or hunter hand-stiff on African veldt
his rifle cocked, this pipe-jointed flare gun,
its lone cartridge load, light, and stand to fire."
And there he, Lem the Logger, full-revealed,
in striking beard, braid-coned (scarf away pulled),
the search implement waved like a madman.
Sea staff there are on vessels these, salts not,
instead, confidants and willing helpers,
with unct'ous manners, conflict deflating
(and contraband procuring, whenever),
and senior-most the displaced approached,
in high attitude like a king’s servant.
He simped: "Our eyes, patrolling eyes, we've had
onto you directed, since first you came
on board. Two rubes, from hinterland shores,
here transplanted, by luck or guile, who knows,
but we, roving conscience of these dank planks
have you nude-vetted, and found, below decks,
in belly of the cargo hold, a box,
of curious dimension. What’s inside?
we ponder, then its crated heft unbind
and expose to the light, a casket pine.
What figure of death bring you in our midst?"
In glory then, time it was, for his bud,
at Lem’s left standing, to reveal himself;
and so dropped he, with jazz-head’s stage presence,
the seam-sealed, outer, rain-retarding gear,
and, with flourish of his right, strumming hand,
a virtuous finger points at the fop,
and says (he, street-lored Freaky Coolhat, says):
"You who crowd and hassle rough the bereaved,
when to your care they on this ship's route come,
propriety an idol make, not love,
I tell you, as sure as the sea drowns men,
that, on the morrow, when, what in the bowels
of this stout craft, coffin-carried, sits up,
not for distress will he ache, but rebirth,
legacies to pass on, heirs to anoint
(though hid, a mighty light in life he was),
but first you, stump in our path sever we."
The gun at hangman's head discharged was, but,
no yard-gank was this, for, into spiders,
the melting flesh fell, a demon id'd,
while away tug and wreck steamed, unnoticed.